According to Harvard’s Kernels of Practice for SEL: Low-Cost, Low-Burden Strategies, social-emotional learning is most effective when delivered in “bite-size” servings, or as Harvard refers to them, “kernels” of SEL:
“Kernels have been shown to be effective for a range of outcomes tied to academic achievement and social adjustment, including classroom behavior, discipline, self-control, and the ability to manage emotions effectively. Kernels are compelling because they do not have to be tied to a specific comprehensive curriculum (in fact they appear in many evidence-based curricula) and because they are typically low-cost and relatively simple to use” (Kernels of Practice, p.2).
This means weaving SEL strategies into your everyday activities gets more return-on-investment than carving out time each week for a dedicated SEL lesson (although that doesn’t hurt).
In their SEL 3 Signature Practices Playbook, CASEL details the neuroscience behind the importance of utilizing their 3 Signature Practices:
- Welcoming Inclusion Activity, Routine or Ritual that focuses on building community and is connected to the day’s work;
- Embedding Engagement Activities that focus on the content, but create opportunities for students engage in interactive and/or reflective activities. This includes using brain breaks and transition techniques;
- Optimistic Closure, which “ highlights an individual and shared understanding of the importance of the work, and provide a sense of accomplishment and support forward-thinking” (SEL Playbook, p. 3).
Utilizing these strategies is important because “a young person’s repeated experiences in school have the opportunity to be a powerful influence for the re-wiring of neural pathways that is necessary for habits to be built and sustained. Creating and sustaining consistent practices helps create the climate and culture that’s vital for optimal learning and working conditions” ( SEL Playbook, p. 7).
Here at Thriving YOUniversity, we like to think of the 3 Signature Practices in terms of food: the Appetizer (welcoming activities), the Main Dish (Embedded Engagement) and Dessert (optimistic closure). Implementing these bite-size servings of SEL regularly helps establish a rhythm and routine in your classroom, and helps create a positive learning environment.
With welcoming activities, the idea is to establish a routine so students know what to expect when they walk in the door to your classroom. Some strategies you can use include:
- daily check-ins like question of the day, this or that, or 4 corners
- morning meetings,
- greeting students at the door.
This strategy should link to learning whenever possible, and lead in a way that students are engaged and feel included.
The Main Dish
The “meat” of your lesson fits here. For greatest impact, weave in activities that support both content and social-emotional skills such as:
- Trio talks
- Group work with clear, assigned roles
- Time to reflect on learning (both verbally and in writing)
- Socratic seminars
During this time, it is important to balance quiet reflection and writing tasks with more active movement and interpersonal activities.
It is also important to include brain breaks and transitional routines. Brain breaks provide students with opportunities to solidify their learning, strengthen their creativity, and re-focus on the tasks at hand. Developing transitional routines and rituals help signal to your students that a change in focus or activity is coming.
Using optimistic closures at the end of your class/lesson allows students to reflect on the day’s learning and/or to reflect on the next steps. Optimistic closures help build and strengthen the classroom community as well as provide students with a sense of accomplishment. Some optimistic closures you can try are:
- Reflection sentence starters, such as “Something I learned today…,” “Something I am still curious about…,” or “Something I plan to share with my grown-up”
- Think/Pair/Share- students come up with 2-3 things they learned today and share out
- Where are we going?- Students try to predict where the lesson is going tomorrow (be sure to refer back to these the next day).
Adding SEL into your daily teaching practice doesn’t have to be an arduous task or another thing you have to take time away from content to teach. It can be seamlessly woven into your day-to-day practice.
How Thriving Can Help
If you’re now thinking “that all sounds good, but I just don’t have time to search for and recreate check-ins and closure activities and all that jazz,” then we have good news for you!
Along with all the free resources we have available for you on our website, we have just rolled out our Bite-Size SEL Program. For $179* you get access to a year-long tool to facilitate this learning for your students. The Bite-Size SEL Program provides you with ready-to-use slide decks that include:
- 180 check-ins
- 180 polls
- 100+ videos
That is less than a dollar a day for an entire school year’s worth of resources right at your fingertips!
On the 15th of the month, you will receive a month’s worth of slide decks that you can use right away in your classroom. Don’t miss out on this fantastic resource that can help you up your SEL game!
*$179 for single educator
$159 for 50+ educators
$139 for more than 100 educators
CASEL’s 3 Signature Practices Playbook